Why A 'Declaration of Digital Human Rights' Gets It Wrong

from the nobody-said-it-would-be-easy dept

Back in November 2013, the French think-tank Forum d?Avignon published a manifesto entitled, “Principles of a universal declaration for Internet users’ and creators’ rights in a digital era,” which tried to define the concept of an individual’s “digital cultural data.” The same group has now put together what it rather grandly calls a “Preliminary Declaration of the Digital Human Rights“. That might sound like a good idea, but as Techdirt has discussed before, thinking in terms of “rights” and “laws” isn’t always the best way to proceed in these sort of areas.

That’s certainly the view of a heavyweight collection of French civil society organizations, which have issued a statement about what they see as key problems with the declaration (via @maliciarogue.). First of all, they point out that the group behind the declaration is not entirely disinterested here:

It is worth noting that the Forum d?Avignon is a French think tank whose main goal is to deepen the links between culture and economy. We hereby denounce the Forum’s use of digital privacy’s debate to its own profit, that is in order to reinforce copyright.

One big problem is the absence of any appreciation of the importance of the public domain:

Article 5 of the Declaration poses that ? any use of the data as a creative work ? is subject to prior consent of the individual. Such a formulation completely ignores the fundamental role of the public domain as well as the exceptions and limitations to copyright, which are all essential in balancing and preserving the system.

The statement also points out that trying to apply copyright law to personal data is unsatisfactory, because it puts the onus on individuals to defend their privacy:

Similarly, the application of copyright law to personal data is a dangerous solution for it is based on the sole individual responsibility and control of the use of data which identify oneself. The French State Council and the National Digital Council rightly warned against such a conceptual framework as it could lead to greater discrimination and therefore inequalities in the protection of privacy. We are not all equal with the exploitation and protection of our data and it is essential that common rules exist.

The statement concludes:

We therefore emphasise that personal data is not a form of creative work and must not be considered as such. Equally, a form of creative work is not personal data and must not be considered as such.

The protection of personal data is a fundamental stake in the digital age. It needs to be balanced with freedom of expression and the right to information.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Companies: forum d'avignon

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